NHDP’s first commitment is to historical monuments that are spread across the Kathmandu Valley. These monuments still play important roles in active social and religious habitats in the old town of Patan. However, many of them are endangered due to the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, urban transformation, and dramatic demographic changes that come hand in hand with economically and socially changing lifeworlds. The project documents their historical and anthropological ‘biographies’ as well as their current states and uses.

Supported by the charitable fund Arcadia, the project both produces and is founded on expertise in extensive heritage documentation fieldwork in Nepal, data management and the development of DANAM since October 2018. All of its content is available in an open access format and thus for free online. Unique material has been assembled and produced anew through the substantial efforts of the NHDP team and fellow experts/collectors. With more heritage documentation field work underway, the database accommodates a growing number of datasets that are being reviewed by renowned experts and scientific personnel from Nepal, Germany and internationally.

The spirit of sharing and open access carries us forward: as happy as we are to share our own data, we are even further enriched by the spirit with which many researchers and institutions have so kindly shared their (mostly unpublished) historical or other material information related to intangible heritage with us. We are indebted to institutions such as the department of Archaeology (DoA), the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), the Nepal Picture Library, and numerous individual researchers such as Niels Gutschow, Wolfgang Korn, Rajendra Shakya, Nutan Sharma, Ulrich von Schröder and Bruce Owens, to mention but a few.


  • We commit to making publicly and freely available the digital documentation of predominantly unpublished endangered cultural heritage from core areas in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The digitized material (originally produced as well as copyrighted) is sustained on a long-term basis at Heidelberg University Library.
  • With this documentation, we want to contribute to, expand and deepen the knowledge about Nepal’s rich tangible cultural heritage as well as the intangible heritage (such as rituals, social use but also the delicate craftsmanship) connected with the built monuments, we co-produce and share the documentation with heritage experts, scholars, architects and interested publics from and in Nepal as well as internationally.
  • We envisage that the material on DANAM provides information by non-commercial means to organisations and individuals who aim at reconstructing and preserving endangered built heritage, for instance, after an earthquake, but also in the context of learning about Nepal’s rich heritage at institutions of Higher Education and schools (disciplines such as history and art history, engineering, art and architecture, urban planning and urban design).
  • It is our aim to discourage theft and illicit-trafficking of artifacts and cultural objects from Nepal through documentation and communication with local stakeholders and public institutions such as the Department of Archaeology (DoA) with whom we partner, and to provide such information to enable the safe return of stolen objects and images to their place of origin.
  • The NHDPs aspiration is also to train younger generations in heritage documentation (such as photography, but also Digital Humanities/IT), and to share knowledge with our network of partners and alliances.
  • Since collaboration and sharing are relevant to us, we seek to work and partner with individuals, organizations, and public and private entities that share the goals of preserving and promoting awareness for the artistic and cultural heritage of Nepal.


The Nepal Heritage Documentation Project is situated at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The NHDP’s key partners and representatives in Germany include the Heidelberg University Library and i3mainz - Institute for Spatial Information and Surveying Technology, whilst the project is supported in Nepal by the Department of Archaeology (DoA) of the Government of Nepal and the Saraf Foundation of Himalayan Traditions and Culture. We are also collaborating with the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT)UNESCO Nepal, and Kathmandu University (Centre for Art and Design ). The project has brought together a team of professionals across the spectrum of heritage work: from architects and draftsmen, to historians and anthropologists, to specialists in Digital Humanities and IT development. With the help of our network and partners, we hope to continue to reach out to other organisations with an interest in heritage preservation and documentation, as well as to institutions of Higher Education in Nepal, to ensure that the database is used and further sustained.

Extension phase (2020-2026)

The project aims to widen its focus to include the entire Kathmandu Valley and a few selected sites beyond, which connect culturally and historically to the valley. The extension phase will also include monuments from West Nepal that entail art historical, archaeological as well as anthropological documentation. This ranges from memorial stones from 13-14th centuries, medieval stone temples, pavilions, water tanks, fortifications and stūpas. The data published in DANAM will consist of four interlinked databases: a) architectural monument database, b) art database with art objects, c) historical database with inscriptions, and d) anthropological database including intangible heritage.

PILOT PHASE (2018 – 2020)

The ancient city of Patan (Lalitpur) and two unique forms of cultural heritage – Buddhist monastic compounds (bāhī/bāhāh) and arcaded resthouses (phalcā) – have served as the main focus within the pilot phase. They Newar monastic compounds are the centres of what is arguably the world’s oldest continuously practised form of Buddhism, whilst the arcaded rest houses (Nevārī: phalcā), a semi-public ‘architectural genre’, reflect the ritual and social richness of urban Newar heritage.